— CBC Docs (@cbcdocs) June 30, 2018
So the trick above might seem easy. Too easy, in fact. Insultingly easy, if you wan’t to get fresh.
Allow me to explain.
The trick, performed by the amazing Julie Eng, isn’t just a great place for coin novices to start, requiring even less dexterity than the super simple french drop, but it’s also a great example of how the complexity of a sleight is secondary to your ability to sell it.
Using a cough to hide a transition is about as subtle as a punch to the face unless you’re rocking some kind of magician-with-a-perpetual-chest-cough persona, but it’s about as straight-forward an example as you’ll find of using “natural” movements to perform tricks. If you can’t cough without setting off people’s “I AM BEING DECEIVED” alarm bells, you probably can’t do that double turnover without looking like an angry robot either. Start small.
Okay, maybe it’s not the simplest coin trick ever. That’d be this one.
— KDI48 (@KDI48GOD) July 1, 2018
Anyway, the tutorial is just a small sample of an episode of Canadian documentary series, The Nature of Things, called The Science of Magic. The episode – which is available online, but only to accursed Canadians – looks at performance magic through the lens of neuroscience and attention bias. One section which sounds particularly interesting is a discussion of, “change blindness,” or the idea that small changes in our environment can mask far larger, more obvious changes. For a really good example of how a good magician can make use of this quirk of biology, see this trick by Penn & Teller.
To learn card magic, you’ll need three things:
The Royal Road is easily the most popular foundational text on the art of card manipulation, but adjusting to its rather dry instruction (it was published in 1948) can be difficult for those raised in the age of YouTube tutorials. So to get started, I strongly suggest you check out the video above, in which close-up YouTube magician Othmarius goes over a sizeable chunk of the book’s first chapter.
Once you’re done with the video, you should pick up a copy of the book. It’s cheap – I snagged my copy for less than a fiver – and nearly every magician I’ve spoken to has recommended it. Is it better than the wealth of tutorials available on YouTube? I’d argue yes. It lays out techniques and tricks in a clear order of difficulty and complexity, with each chapter building on the last. The only part that has aged poorly is some of the presentation tips. For example: Announcing all your reveals with a hearty “ALLEZ OUP!” probably won’t fly today.
Chris Ramsay may no longer be doing straight-up magic tutorials, but he’s still putting out some very useful guides to promoting oneself in the age of social media. His guide to getting good promotional photographs should be mandatory viewing for everyone in the industry (and I mean everyone; you cannot imagine how many top tier magicians hit us up with promo shots that look like they’re extracts from an FBI watchlist). In his latest video, he and magician and photographer Alex Pandrea wander around yet another island paradise, doling out solid advice on how to take good shots of playing cards.
This guide contains far more practical advice than his promo shot one, and while it’s likely nothing new to anyone who’s taken a photography class at some point in their life, the quick summaries of composition, lighting, and colour-theory will definitely improve your card snaps. Considering every magician and their mum has their own branded cardistry decks vying for cash on Kickstarter these days, it’s very useful guide indeed.
Grab your scarves, flat-top sunglasses and a deck of cards, folks. It’s time to head into the local forest for some cardistry.*
Today’s tutorial comes courtesy of cardistry practitioner, magician, and YouTuber Ekaterina. In just 10 minutes she’ll teach you how to perform Kevin Ho’s impressive Damn Straight move. The move is complex, but not overly difficult, relying more on finger strength to maintain card positions rather than balance or timing. It’s a great place to start once you’ve learned the basic grips.
Oh, and before you ask: Those are Launch Edition Virtuosos she’s using. They’re very hard, if not impossible, to get your hands on these days, and have been seen in the wild at prices up to $200. If you want the same performance, I think the 2017 Fall/Winter variants are easier on the eyes and wallet.
*Muted color filters and royalty-free chillstep not included
Jay Sankey is doing work with these trick tutorial videos. In this latest effort, he shows us how to make a marked elastic band disappear and reappear inside of a tuck box, and how to pull an elastic band through a pencil. The tuck box trick is quick and relatively low-key, but with the right set up it could land really well. The pencil trick is a lightning fast sleight that really pops close up, do it with a borrowed pencil for maximum impact.
Be sure to check out the rest of Sankey’s Magic tutorials.
If you were trapped on a desert island, what message would you put in a bottle?
That’s the setup for this simple but effective trick courtesy of comedian and sleight-of-hand magician, Jay Sankey. With just a couple of sleights, you can make your mark’s signed letter appear inside a water bottle. I’m cack-handed as they come, but I managed to get the trick down after about twenty minutes of juggling soggy bits of paper. Pro tip: Dry out the bottle first.
Sankey’s YouTube channel is full of clear and concise trick tutorials and he’s adding to that collection all the time. The video below was uploaded to his channel as I wrote this article. I’ll give that one a go as soon as I mop up this water.
Did the new NDO Broken Borders playing card deck catch your eye? Yes? Then you may want to brush up your moves with the latest tutorial videos from School Of Cardistry. This educational YouTube channel, also made by NDO, posts new tutorials for free every week, and the two most recent videos show options for different two-handed cuts.
The top one features Birger Karlsson teaching his Namnlos move. You’ll need to be comfortable with the Pivot move to master his cut. The video below is the flashy-looking Sigmatoss as taught by Matthew Beaudouin. That one lists the Charlier Cut as a prerequisite. (Don’t fret if you need to brush up on your Pivot or Charlier; there are tutorials for those as well.)
If you find you get a lot out of School Of Cardistry channel, then consider throwing a few bucks towards the NDO Patreon. Subscribers get perks such as access to discussion groups and exclusive videos.
YouTube magician Chris Ramsay isn’t doing magic tutorials any more after accidentally plagiarizing another performer’s trick, among other reasons. The move has been met with some consternation from Ramsay’s subscribers, many of whom initially followed him for the tutorials.
In the spirit of teaching a man to fish, Ramsay has begun this new chapter of his channel with a video about creating your own tricks. The advice isn’t ground-breaking by any means – association is the oldest creative trick in the book – but it’s interesting to see how principles developed mostly for writing can be applied to something as physical as performance magic.
Chris Ramsay was in hot water recently, when a tutorial video he uploaded featured a trick created by another magician without credit or permission. While he’s since deleted the offending video, apologized for the oversight, and has decided to stop doing magic tutorial videos at all, it’s re-opened discussion on an important debate: are YouTube magic tutorials good for the community, or are they giving away everyone’s secrets?
Mahdi Gilbert recently weighed in on the controversy in his email newsletter:
I am generally against [sharing secrets on YouTube]. I feel like it’s prostituting the art of magic in order to get views. I understand the appeal, I understand the efficiency, I get it. People love magic and they want to know the secret, so it make sense that if you want to get a lot of people to watch something you perform a trick and then promise to reveal the secret. This is nothing new in magic. Some people used to sell magic shows that came in two parts. The first part was the show and then they had to pay for the second show in which the secrets were revealed. It was a great business model. A lot of people bought tickets. However, artistically it’s bankrupt. Just because something is effective doesn’t mean that it’s worth using.
So what’s the solution? People want to learn magic, and YouTube can be an excellent tool for broadening the audience for anyone with some cards, a decent video, and the resolve to learn something to become a magician. But there’s a responsibility for the magician to make sure they aren’t revealing too many secrets to anyone who can click a link or, heaven forbid, reveal someone else’s secrets.
For Mahdi, the solution is to teach everything around the act of magic, but not the secret itself. He’s posted a few videos recently that attempt to do just that. Like this one, where he teaches how to shuffle from hand to hand (without any hands):
Or this one, where he teaches how to perform a ribbon spread with a deck of cards:
Mahdi’s email continues:
I believe it is possible to make tutorials in a way that does not reveal secrets online. Do a cursory search and you will find that many of the most popular tutorials related to playing cards do not have to do with magic. You can easily teach card manipulations & classic or original card flourishes without becoming an expose artist. Instead of revealing long guarded magic secrets you can easily teach useful skills that anyone who handles cards would love to learn And let’s be real here, those tutorials that you guys are making on top changes, palms, false deals and false shuffles, what percentage of your viewers are actually going to pursue learning it and becoming good at it? Probably very, very low because it’s extremely hard to master those techniques and if they were serious enough to pursue it they would most likely be seeking professional sources (in many great books & videos produced by the world’s greatest masters of sleight of hand technique).
He closes with rather sobering take:
Magic on the internet is mostly depressing. Fake audiences, fake magic, fake magicians, fake everything. We don’t need to stoop low in order to make it through to the end, to achieve or goals or anything else.
How do you feel about magic tutorials on YouTube? Are they helping the magic community grow or are they needlessly exposing secrets to a larger audience?
Chris Ramsay has a new video up, but the real star of the show is Alex Pandrea, who drops by to pinch hit with a tutorial. It’s an original riff on the card to pocket idea. Pandrea walks you through how to make a chosen card seem to vanish from the deck then reappear pretty much anyplace else. His version doesn’t take any purchased gimmicks or even any sleight of hand. All you need is a sharpie. It’s pretty darn clever.